The police week has brought forward issues like “addictive” corruption and non-performance by the men and women responsible to protect us. But even as we criticise them, we also need to learn why they get involved in unlawful activities. I do believe, however, that despite everything police can change the face of Bangladesh.
In the countryside, I am told the police was identified more as a friend of the powerful and wealthy, while common people viewed them as a scary force that could turn their lives upside down. This is the general perception, but of course there are good policemen too.
If not all, most of the demands they had made to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were implemented. Therefore the police have to deliver without fear or favour and should not indulge in graft. It is alleged that there is widespread bribing within the force for postings in certain police stations as there are opportunities to earn large amounts illegally.
A recent report said informers who help police were turning to crime because they were not getting their allotted funds. Their police handlers possibly appropriate much of this money for themselves.
Sheikh Hasina has recently asked that her government has hiked their salaries and increased benefits, then why one should be involved in illegal activities? She is very correct and now the police must join the premier’s drive against corruption.
For example, when one walks into a police station for help, it is widely known, that a common man does not get much of a response. In some cases they are told that a simple General Diary (GD) or a case would not be accepted.
The reason being either the officer has to be bribed or a powerful individual has already bribed him, to stop any kind of action in a particular matter.
The sight of policemen taking bribes for different reasons on the roads has now become the order of the day. Right or wrong, truckers have to pay at several points, else they cannot operate. Private car drivers have to pay too on the highways and for evading paying fines for breaking traffic rules.
The cost of truckers is covered by increasing the prices of commodities they carry for the markets putting most people in a tough spot. The smaller traffic bribes worsen our chaos on the streets. All these hurt our economy and negate the premier’s pledge to bring about a graft-free country.
The police cannot and must not give any excuse now in implementing guidelines they promise to follow in their oath after putting on their uniform. I am sure, as in a family, those holding senior posts would take visible and factual steps to correct the situation by first correcting themselves i.e. if they need correction.
When one is told to give up any bad habit like cigarette smoking, smokers like me know it is won't be easy. Malpractices are an addiction as easy money is very tasty and like nicotine, also very addictive. However, many have quit smoking to my knowledge. Thus my brothers and sisters in the police can do it too.
It is the will power that is needed to overcome any addiction and I am hopeful that all policemen will be able to quit all addictions that go against the will of the premier and belie the expectations of the people.
I do remember the case of a courageous officer who stopped a very powerful man for taking the wrong side of the road to avoid traffic jam. That officer did not bow down to any threat. We need men like him and recognise them as the true police officers who can guide others to quit the addictions that plague the police forces.
The handicap police face are mostly interventions by the powerful and rich people who bully them, threaten them with spoiling their careers and in some cases offer them hefty bribes. Some think the bribe is the best choice while others shy away from such incidents in anger. We must stand by those who shy away as they are not addicted they are not scared of anybody, but cannot afford to lose their jobs.
There are some born criminals in the force who become news and they must be given exemplary punishments with special media coverage. If the superiors are patriotic and honest, a police force with a clean image will not be impossible to imagine.
If the police can give their best, there will be hardly any crime. That would contribute a lot in fighting lawlessness as well as corruption. The national exchequer would also benefit. Lives would not be lost due to reckless driving and innocent people would not land in jail.
The police are the institution that can change the face of Bangladesh. One would like to hope that they would reciprocate the premier’s magnanimity in responding to their demands, including foreign postings, by achieving a new image of which we can be proud of. Good luck.
Nadeem Qadir is the Consulting Editor, Daily Sun and a UN Dag Hammarskjöld fellow.